Chromebook Pixel Review: A Laptop Grounded in the Cloud

PHOTO: Googles Pixel laptop runs Chrome OS and starts at $1,299.
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"Are you mad at the computer or at the Internet connection?" my girlfriend asked me as I tried to get back on the Internet from 10,000 feet in the sky. We were on a plane, and I had been typing this review in the Cloud -- quite literally -- for two hours. With Google's Chromebook Pixel you have no choice.

The Pixel is Google's very own Chromebook -- a laptop that runs its Chrome OS, an operating system that is just a Chrome Web browser. There are no other programs in the machine -- the browser is it. Which means an Internet connection is also the only point of entry.

The Chromebook Pixel isn't the first Chromebook. Acer and Samsung have been selling their own inexpensive laptops that run the same software for around $2-300. But the Pixel is the first premium Chromebook and the first to cost $1,300. It's a shockingly high price tag, but also a shockingly beautiful laptop.

Top Notch Hardware
With the Pixel, Google set out to "design the best laptop possible." And that it did. The Pixel is one of the finest looking and feeling laptops I've ever tested. It's not as thin as Apple's MacBook Air or some of the other Windows ultrabooks out there, but it's still equally striking in its own so-I'm-not-the-thinnest way.

Made of anodized aluminum, the 0.63-inch thick laptop does appear slightly boxy, especially in photos, but its straight lines give it a clean aesthetic. The exterior is all metal -- there's no plastic bottom or edges to surround the ports.

RELATED: 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display Review: The Almost Perfect Laptop

But there is one piece that lights up the design. Literally. Along the top of the lid is a thin light strip, which appears blue when the system is in use and red when it is low on power. Google's wacky engineers have also included a special Easter Egg -- punch in a special code on the keyboard and it will flash the green, blue, red and yellow of Google's logo.

It's under the lid that you'll find the real highlight of the laptop. The 12.85-inch, 2560 x 1700-resolution screen is dazzling. Like Apple's MacBook Retina Display, everything from plain text to high resolution images or video looks incredibly crisp. And the black flush frame surrounding the screen gives it a high-quality HDTV look.

The screen isn't just meant for looking at the Web, it's also meant for touching. But I rarely reached out, over the keyboard and trackpad, to use it. Perhaps that's because I used the laptop to type most of the time or that the Web applications and sites I spend the most time at aren't built for touch, but I didn't use the touch screen more than a few times. And even worse, when I did pinch in on the screen to try and zoom in on a photo on ABCNews.com, all I got were some fingerprints on the screen; pinch-to-zoom is only supported on some Google sites, not all websites.

Keyboard and Trackpad
But the touch experience Google has gotten completely nailed is the one on the trackpad. As other computer manufacturers have struggled to create a trackpad experience as smooth as Apple's, Google has put the pieces in the right place. Two-finger scrolling on the trackpad is smooth and regular pointing and clicking works just as it should. No jumping cursors or mis-highlighted text.

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